Review: Into the Breach

Games have been scratching a certain itch for people for as long as they’ve been playing them; the sensation of good strategy is in our blood. Seeing the pieces placed in a proper order of operation to the culmination of an efficiently-executed plan. It’s a wonderful feeling that tickles that part of the brain that says “good job!” Two of the most well-known games to do this are Chess and Shogi, both centered on a grid system with different pieces equipped with certain move sets. While the two games are different, they are also much the same. There’s something timeless about this grid style play; it’s easy to understand, requires thought and remains fun. All of this to say: Into the Breach is one hell of a strategy game.

Into the Breach from developer Subset Games knocks strategy out of the park using simple design, challenging play and fun narrative. Using an 8×8 grid for each level Into the Breach consistently challenges the player with the task at hand that requires foresight and planning. If people think games like Dark Souls requires wit, than Into the Breach can hang with the best of them. It’s as smart as it is unforgiving, asking only that the player play their best and smartest. One moment a situation can go from coming out on top to having it all fall apart because one simple enemy on the field was read wrong. Into the Breach is a game of triumph and tragedy coming together to create memorable gameplay experiences that are worth every abandon timeline.

Narratively Into the Breach is about the world having gone through catastrophic flooding due to humanity’s mistreatment of the earth, and on top of that, giant bugs are now attacking the last cities. Luckily, humanity has advanced far enough in technology to have created giant mechs to combat the bugs. If things do go south, time travel is always an option. Using the 8×8 grid the player will face off against the Vek (giant bugs) with their Mechs, which come in a team of three. The time travel bit might be one of the best parts of Into the Breach. Choosing to “abandon timeline” allows for the taking back of one pilot with all experience gained into the next timeline, so as not to be a total loss. Abandoning a timeline never feels like a loss, though, but more a safety net because things have gone bad in game. It’s a simple and punchy narrative, allowing for focus on the actual game which is where the real meat lies.

At the beating heart of Into the Breach lives the soul of a strategy game wanting the player to experiment and play to their heart’s content. One of the biggest components of play for Into the Breach is the 8×8 grid allowing for the right amount of flexibility and tension that comes with grid play. Mechs never feel too spread out and enemies always remain within reach. No matter what the situation is on the board there is most likely a way to resolve most, if not all, issues. Into the Breach is asking the player to think on their feet and take every possibility in; if a certain problem doesn’t seem solvable, it might just need to be looked at a little longer. Each unit on the field can be looked over showing stats, movement and move sets. On top of this wealth of unit information, units can be moved around and reset as desired. Into the Breach wants the player to take the perfect shot at the pool table, each play creating a series of steps to get to a grand finale, and it feels good.

Each timeline a team of three mechs will be selected along with one pilot and two accompanying. There are certain pilots to unlock, but others will be lost and gained regularly without consequence. Each team of Mechs is unique with different bonuses and abilities. The best part is that once a few different Mech teams are unlocked then mixing and matching becomes an option. Into the Breach even has options for chaotic or balanced rolls, but the most fun is creating and finding your perfect team of Mechs to take into battle. Mechs can also be upgraded with different weapons and abilities giving more freedom of movement, health and all sorts of weapons; pilots also come with unique abilities, but this finds importance in playstyle. Even when choosing a certain playstyle, the islands and Vek will always find a way to push back.

When choosing an island, it will come with different Vek, special Vek and the boss Vek. Into the Breach is about prioritizing to the best of ones’ ability. Each island is home to certain regions with their own weather effects; your Mechs might be good for dust storms, but what about lighting? To secure an island from the Vek threat, a certain number of regions must be secured, along with having killed the Vek boss. Each island will have regions that show different objectives from protecting a train, to killing a certain number of Vek. Health is represented by the island’s power grid, and it’s game over if power reaches zero. Vek will become familiar, but it’s the topography, objectives and rotation of enemies that make for nail-biting play.

Not only is the play deeply rewarding, but so too is the achievement system. Usually achievements aren’t something big to boast about, but when those achievements fuel the currency used to unlock different Mechs and other goodies, it becomes a delicious game in itself. The list of achievements goes from easy to challenging; some will be gained just playing the game, but others will require a bit of work. As if Into the Breach didn’t already have enough pieces of cheese hanging in front of the player, its achievement system adds that extra layer of goodness to an already exceptional game.

Closing Comments:

Into the Breach is one of those gems that will be talked about for the rest of 2018; a game that will come up in game of the year discussions and beyond, because it’s just that good. It came out of nowhere, making waves in all the right ways. Into the Breach shows that strategy games don’t need to do anything new because they can create some of the most memorable gaming experiences to be had if done correctly. Into the Breach is a game that is being played even when away from the computer, because it can’t help but fill the mind with possibility.

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